Promoted heavily during its original theatrical release, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People had a bit of buzz surrounding it for several reasons. One, it co-starred Megan Fox in her first film since Transformers and the world would get to see if she could actually act alongside non-robots. Second it had England-import Simon Pegg on board as the star and judging by the critical reception of his other films over here, he would have some weight to throw around in the film. Unfortunately none of the promotions or potential star performers could bring the audience into How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Despite opening in nearly 1800 theaters, the film made a paltry $2.7 million in the States. Combined with lackluster critical reception, the film ultimately didn’t fare well at all.
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People follows the escapades of Sidney Young (Pegg), a small-time aspiring British celebrity journalist who is hired by an upscale magazine after catching the attention of Clayton Harding (Bridges) during an event by creating a ridiculous scene with the help of a wild pig. Turning in a new direction, Sidney begins his descent into success and re-establishes himself from lonely outsider to confidante of starlet Sophie Maes (Fox), and enters into a love affair with colleague Alison Olsen (Dunst) that will either make him or break him.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this film the first time I saw it and watching it a second time I gained a little better insight into it. It’s not really a film about much of anything; it’s really just Young’s journey through a particular time in his life and how he went from no-one to someone. Strictly speaking it is a very dull film that only entertains when Pegg or someone is yelling or providing some kind of visual slapstick. Still, there is a little bit of charm to the film if only because we get to see a man beaten down eventually rise from the ashes.
In a way the film is almost incredibly depressing. Nothing goes right for anyone involved; not just Pegg’s character mopes about, but as does everyone else’s, from Gillian Andersons to Jeff Bridges—despite all of their wealth and fame, no one in this film is really happy. Not a huge surprise, as the film itself is really just so sardonic at times that it feels like with a little less cheeky humor it could have been filed under “dark comedy” instead of “drama/comedy.” It teeters that edge for the majority of the film, with the only real ray of light coming from the interaction between Pegg and Dunst’s characters. Yes, it’s an unlikely pairing on paper, but it somehow works and never once feels awkward or out of the ordinary.
And…Fox. I really don’t know what to make of her as an actress yet, because while she plays the typical airhead in this film, she honestly didn’t seem like that much of one in Transformers. I know, I know, that’s called “acting,” but I guess even though she’s hard to peg down, then that’s something. Not that I think we have to worry about her not being everywhere for the next decade or so. We may very well just be sick of her by the time Transformers 3 comes out. But for a second film to appear in? It’s not really that bad of an effort from her, although her screen time is really quite limited to be honest; kind of surprised she gets as much on-top billing as she did for this one.
Really, the film is nothing special; I didn’t read the book it was adapted from, but the film itself is fairly straightforward. It has humor to keep the viewer entertained through the dry and melodramatic bits, but for the most part the film is pretty much on auto-pilot. It ends up how you expect it to, but it’s not really the type of film that you would expect a “twist” from anyway. By the numbers all the way, but it does still remain entertaining. Especially the Bridges and Pegg scenes; they’re almost uncomfortable in how much they see-saw in terms of mood and you never know from when to the next what to expect.
Overall the film is Recommended if just for the performances. The film does become a bit tedious at times in keeping the viewers eyes on the screen, but Pegg alone makes the film enjoyable enough to watch at least once. Being a huge fan of Pegg, this was far from my favorite of his films (and may in fact be my least favorite), but the man is so entertaining that it doesn’t really matter.
Fox has released How to Lose Friends and Alienate People in a single-disc release that has gotten quite a bit of protest online. It seems that a whole wealth of bonus material was recorded and will be released in other region releases, but region 1 pretty much got the shaft when it came to the extras here. Not that you can really blame Fox; the U.S. box office performance and critical reception was pretty dire and considering they didn’t even invest in a Blu-ray release pretty much tells you how they felt about it. Of course, they could also just be waiting to release a Blu-ray release with all of the extras too and this DVD release may just be a little chum to test the waters on what they can get away with. In any case, the Amaray case is a new more “recyclable” version, with big holes cut all throughout the packaging (less plastic, less waste). It’s a rather interesting concept actually, but I can’t imagine that the integrity of the case holds up to much stress (especially since if someone punches a hole through the package in one of the many empty areas underneath the disc itself, you could very easily scratch the disc up before you even finish taking the shrinkwrap off). But really unless you play badmitton with your cases, it isn’t a concern. It was just something for me to comment on since there were no inserts in the case and the menus were simple and easy to navigate.
Extras include a pair of commentaries, the first with Audio Commentary with Director Robert Weide and Star Simon Pegg and the second with Audio Commentary with Director Robert Weide. Both tracks are fun to listen to, but the one with Pegg has the most laughs, while the Weide solo-track gets into the technicalities of it all more. The bad thing is that the commentaries mention other bonus material such as gag reels and deleted scenes, neither of which are to be found on this release. In fact the only other extra is a Sharp Interviews – Making Of (18:39), which is a 4×3 letterboxed widescreen extra that, while entertaining, really feels kind of empty without any of the other extras to follow it up with.
Overall a decent release, but you may want to hold out on picking this one up for awhile to see if Fox unleashes another edition a year or two down the line (probably a big ol’ “Megan Fox Super Foxxxxxy Edition!!!” whenever she becomes the next Marilyn Monroe). Still Recommended, but those who really enjoyed the film and want more extras may want to just give it a rental for now.
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People is now available on DVD.